Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's Try To Get It Right

I'm researching for my next novel and found a book I thought might be moderately informative.  The writing is disoriented, all over the place, jumping from one year to the next, one person to the next.  I started to think "What's this book about?"  And given that it's nonfiction, that doesn't seem like a good sign.

But when the writer got the name of a prominent actress of the day wrong, that's when I gave up.

This is Mary Miles Minter.  Not Minton.  It seems to me that anyone who was writing a book and doing tons of research would have found this image on the net.  Not to mention that Mary Miles Minter was involved in one of the most publicized scandals of the era and silent film buffs are still talking about it.  It's not like she's obscure and her name is difficult in the way that Jerzy Kosinski might be.  (He wrote Being There and if you ever hear Chauncey Gardiner referred to, that's where it's from.)

I should have been tipped off when the writer got Adela Rogers wrong.  It's Adela Rogers St. John.  That's her name.  The later in the book it's Adela St. John.  No it's not.  It's still Adela Rogers St. John.

And no, Anita Loos was never a child star in early silents.  While she did do a few turns on stage, she always knew she wanted to be a writer.  Her bio A Girl Like I  is on my bookshelf,  so I think I know a little about her, apparently a whole lot more than the writer of this nonfiction book.

Anita did write The New York Hat in 1912 for D.W. Griffith and she did write the memorable novel in the mid 1920s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes much later turned into a movie (yes, the one that starred Marilyn Monroe). 

When I started writing, it was almost impossible to do research.  It meant going to the library and  the struggle to find a tidbit was daunting.  To find some things, you might have to go to a college library.  I spent hours one winter at the library of Arizona State.  Now you go to Wikipedia.  It takes the amount of time it takes to type the search words.  There's no excuse for making these kinds of mistakes anymore.

But legacy publishing is professional and they do everything so much better than unprofessional, wild-eyed self-publishing numbskulls.


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